I was excited when first time I knew that I will go for an exchange program, even more when my friends told me their wonderful experiences and assured me that I should expect a lot of good things. But my enthusiasm still gives me the feeling of anxiety and fear on me that I will embark on a journey to another country, where I’ll have to face an unfamiliar environment with different set of rules and nobody to be lean on. I was anxious to leave my comfort zone, scared to face new people, and struggled to adapt. It made me feel imbalance and think that I didn’t have the best way to start, but I discovered soon why I should be thankful with the unfamiliarity.
Being in a foreign country surrounded by people who knows nothing about me was a very rare experience and I was delighted to have that chance. For once, I can just let go and reinvent myself from the start during the process of making friends with my new colleagues and companions. It was really a chance to get to know myself better, to find out who I actually want to be and to be a person without being expected by those who already knew me and not well reacted to the change. Those four months away in a stranger’s land enabled me to grew up and rediscovered myself, with the end result of being compromised between what I aspire to be and who I’m supposed to be – someone that I’m pleasantly become and comfortable to be.
When I’m comfortable with my own skin, making friends is only natural. I was still picky over about people who are to be friend and this exchange program may rewarded me with only a shortlist of friends, but I’d rather pick quality over quantity anytime of the day. For those friends are remarkably insightful people who graced me with different perspectives and idealism, they are kind of people who makes me comfortable enough with them to be careless, share my honest thought and show my candid affection with. It’s a bond created by sharing experience and understanding, the one that doesn’t come by often and I plan to keep it around.
But what I like the most from going on an exchange program is the rare chance to be minority. It’s not something I’m unfamiliar with, but there is something makes me feel comfort of being around with people who know nothing about Javanese Moslem women and only expect the basic: “eat halal food, do prayer, and be nice the way a human being is supposed to”. There is a peaceful feeling in knowing that despite all that, they still respect me and my religion. It was an excited experience, to be on the other end of that consideration, and it brought me a lot of good things.
I’d be exaggerated if I called my exchange experience a “life-changing”. But indeed, it was an exceptional opportunity to learn and grow as a person, which I hope will bring good impact to others by being tolerant, open minded, and understanding – characteristics that I learned during those four months.